Monday, October 29, 2012

Goodies Giveaway: Dinner at The Pop Shop

Collingswood, New Jersey is home to many gluten-free-friendly restaurants and bakeries, but perhaps none more family-friendly than The Pop Shop (729 Haddon Ave., 856-869-0911). Owners Connie and Bill "Stink" Fisher, both South Jersey natives, added gluten-free bread to the menu at their retro-style diner a few years ago for their signature grilled cheese sandwiches (Stink once bested celebrity chef Bobby Flay on an episode of Food Network's Throwdown with "The Calvert"), and have since begun offering chicken fingers and fries (made in a dedicated fryer), French toast, ice cream cones and cupcakes.

Known for their community involvement, The Pop Shop is hosting a fundraiser to benefit the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness on Thursday, November 15. When you bring this flyer and dine in for any meal that day (8 a.m. to 9 p.m.), the restaurant will donate 15% of your total check to the NFCA.

What's more, The Pop Shop is offering one Gluten Free Philly reader dinner for four guests, to be used at any time. The giveaway includes any four entrees from the adult and children's menus. (Sorry, but it doesn't include drinks or desserts.)

To enter up to three different ways, follow the instructions below. Entries are being accepted through Sunday, November 4. You must enter a valid email address so that I can contact you if you're the winner.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 26, 2012

News & Notes: October 26, 2012

The Saint James, the just-opened New American bistro in Ardmore (30 Parking Plaza, 610-649-6200) from the owners of Rouge and the chef and Sampan, has several gluten-free options, including the raw bar, salads and entrees. Estrella Damm Daura beer is also available. (Thanks to Bethann S.)

In Old City Philadelphia, Spasso Italian Grill (34 S. Front St., 215-592-7661) offers gluten-free pasta that is prepared in new water in a clean pot.

Reader Anna A. recommends the baby-back ribs and sausage bites at Stogie Joe's Tavern in South Philadelphia (1802 E. Passyunk Ave., 215-463-3030). The owner is familiar with gluten-free options on the menu.

Also recommended, from Molly K., is Talula's Garden, the highly regarded farm-to-table New American spot in Philadelphia's Washington West section (210 W. Washington Square, 215-592-7787). Most of the menu is either naturally gluten free or can be adapted, and gluten-free bread is available with notice.

I finished my southern California Road Trip series in Tuesday's post, with the last segment covering Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

Two new gluten-free cookbooks have just been published. First is Anne Byrn's Unbelievably Gluten-Free, whose The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free book is frequently used by my wife to prepare fancy desserts. Anne's new cookbook contains more than 100 dinner recipes. Blogger Nicole Hunn's second book, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: Quick and Easy, has dozens of quick-prep and make-ahead recipes for breakfast, dinner, breads, snacks and baked goods. (If you purchase these or other items from using the aforementioned links, you'll be supporting Gluten Free Philly.)

The Chester County chapter of the Gluten Intolerance Group is GIG hosting “Gluten-Free: Out and About” on Monday, November 12 at Wegmans in Downingtown (1056 E. Lancaster Ave.) from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. SchÓ“r USA's Director of Nutritional Services, Anne Roland Lee, will be speaking there, and there'll be food samples, a tour of the store's Nature Marketplace section, as well as tips and resources for dining out and traveling. RSVP is not required.

As always, have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gluten-Free Road Trip: Hollywood Nights

Previous: A Whole New World

As famous California roadways go, the Pacific Coast Highway is a top-five candidate. Otherwise known as State Route 1, the famous road runs along much of the coastline and connects the northern San Francisco Bay Area to the southern part of the state. One magnificent stretch runs through Malibu, where we had dinner our first night in metro Los Angeles. Our place of choice was Duke's Malibu, an offshoot of the Duke's family of restaurants well known in Hawaii, where we were able to get an ocean-view booth. Duke's has a gluten-free menu, off which our son ordered a Rocket Salad (arugula, Maui onion, bacon, roasted beets, goat cheese, white balsamic vinaigrette) and ono (also known as wahoo) glazed with a chili and cumin aioli with white rice and black bean salsa as sides.

Before returning to the Sheraton Delfina for the evening, we drove down another famous highway, Wilshire Boulevard, to get dessert at Beachy Cream in Santa Monica. Not just any dessert, mind you, but a homemade ice cream sandwich - two gluten-free chocolate chip cookies with pistachio ice cream.

The next day, we drove to Universal Studios in Hollywood. The production company behind classics like Jaws, Psycho and Jurassic Park runs an hour-long studio tour that's included in the price of  admission to the attached theme park. We took in the amazingly realistic Transformers 3-D ride (a couple times, actually) and Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster before going on the tour.

Among the many highlights of the tour was the King Kong 3-D motion simulator, which made us feel like we were trapped amid a jungle battle between the famous gorilla and a horde of dinosaurs. We also got to see Doc's DeLorean from Back to the Future, the Wisteria Lane exterior set from Desperate Housewives, and the War of the Worlds plane crash scene.

We broke for lunch at one of the CityWalk restaurants, Wolfgang Puck Bistro, where our older son amazingly ordered from the kids' menu for the first time in years. That said, he got two orders of salmon skewers with green beans.

In the afternoon, we conquered the upper level of the park, where we entered multiple dimensions at Shrek 4-D, Terminator 2:3-D and The Simpsons Ride. The best attraction there was Waterworld, a 20-minute live-action rescue adventure featuring lots of stunts and special effects.

The Flintstones BBQ stand was among the concessions listed on the park's gluten-free dining guide, so my son ordered the BBQ chicken platter, which came with sides of baked potato and cole slaw. The boys chased dinner with Ben and Jerry's vanilla soft serve.

With three theme-park days under our belts, we opted to leave the driving to others the next day. We took a 6-1/2 hour guided tour of Los Angeles. The tour took us through several neighborhoods where some of Hollywood's famous make their homes, including Bill Cosby, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Jack Black, Will Smith and Jackie Chan. We saw famous sites like Rodeo Drive, Paramount Studios and the Hollywood Walk of Fame (where I got to see the star awarded a few years ago to my favorite band, Canadian rockers Rush).

This tour, like many others, stops for lunch at the Original Farmers' Market. There's a stand there that serves gluten-free pizza, but we weren't comfortable with the preparation. We weren't able to find any other accommodating vendors, so I ended up taking my son to a nearby Chipotle for a rice bowl. As it turned out, we were only a few blocks from fonuts and had time to spare, so we walked over to the shop. We were amazed to see so many varieties of gluten-free donuts. My son devoured the coconut passion fruit donut before we left, and so I ended up buying another flavor - chocolate hazelnut - for his breakfast the next morning.

We stopped for dinner before returning to the hotel at the Santa Monica location of Buddha's Belly. With a large gluten-free menu to choose from, we ordered family style and shared shrimp dumplings, pad thai, fried rice and peanut noodles.

I was nervous heading into the vacation that nine days was too long of a trip, but there was so much to do in southern California that the time flew by. With just a couple of exceptions and a bit of planning, it was extremely easy to find gluten-free options throughout the region.

Friday, October 19, 2012

News & Notes: October 19, 2012

Finally, there's a breakthrough on gluten-free breakfast foods in the area. New Wave Cafe, a gastropub in the Queen Village section of Philadelphia (784 S. 3rd St., 215-922-8484), now offers pancakes and waffles at brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. (The waffles are made in a dedicated iron.) Pizza is available daily, and the kitchen is looking to source gluten-free buns and rolls. Dogfish Head's Tweason'ale is on the beer list.

All Uncle Bill's Pancake House locations now have gluten-free pancakes. The outposts in Avalon (3189 Dune Drive, 609-967-8448), North Cape May (3820 Bayshore Rd., 609-886-0066) and at 21st Street in Ocean City (2112 Asbury Ave., 609-398-7393) are open all year. The seasonal locations are in Cape May, Ocean City (at 40th Street), Stone Harbor, Strathmere and Wildwood.

Underdogs has opened a second location, in South Philly's Italian Market (1205 S. 9th St., 215-551-8080). Gluten-free buns are available and the fries are cooked separately.

Table 31's gluten-free Spaghetti Bolognese
My son and I had a terrific dinner this week at Table 31, the Italian steakhouse inside Philadelphia's tallest building, the Comcast Center (1701 JFK Blvd.,  215-567-7111). The new gluten-free menu doesn't list them, but there are a number of pastas available daily. I recommend the spaghetti bolognese, lobster rigatoni or (if it's a special) the short ribs with creamy polenta.

Center City's Garces Trading Company (1111 Locust St., 215-574-1099) now has a formal gluten-free menu. Links to current gluten-free menus at Chef Garces' other Philadelphia restaurants (Tinto, Amada, Distrito and Chifa) are at my Restaurants page.

The Springfield location of Cocco's Pizza (35 E. Woodland Ave., 610-544-6730) has joined those in Downingtown and Primos in serving gluten-free pizza. What's more, the Downingtown spot is also selling hot pretzels from Tonya's Gluten Free.

Earlier in the week, I posted a review of another Center City Italian steakhouse, Davio's. Coincidentally, the restaurant is offering a three-course gluten-free beer dinner menu next week (October 22-28) featuring Redbridge beer and Magners cider for $50 per diner, not including tax and gratuity.

Philadelphia's first The Lite Choice, which I wrote about last month, will open for business tomorrow at 135 South Street. The chain's signature soft serve is gluten free and gluten-free cones will be available.

Congratulations to this year's winners in the Gluten-Free Beer category at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival. Rock Bottom Brewery in Arlington, Virginia took the Gold with Nikki's Gluten-Free Pale Ale, Colorado's New Planet Beer won Silver with a limited Brown Ale release, and Harvester Brewing in Portland captured the Bronze medal with its Pale Ale.

The Celiac Diagnostic Center at Atlantic Gastroenterology in Egg Harbor Township (3205 Fire Rd., 609-407-1220 x1125) is hosting a support group meeting on Tuesday, October 30 at 7 p.m. Somers Point ShopRite dietitian Amanda Fischer will be the guest speaker.

An online petition to the White House seeks to have the government finalize gluten-free food labeling, which was supposed to have been done back in 2008. If the petition garners 25,000 signatures by November 1, the government will respond. More signatures are needed, so sign it through this link.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael
Vote for Gluten Free Philly as Best Support Group in the Best of Gluten-Free Philadelphia Awards.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gnocchi on Heaven's Door

Contributor Alice Ozma is a young professional in the publishing industry who works from her home in Old City. She was diagnosed with celiac disease a year ago but also has problems with everything from dairy to fresh fruits and vegetables, which makes life… interesting.

By Alice Ozma

Although the high ceilings, tall chairs, and business suits at Davio’s initially made me feel awkward,  I felt at home when the hostess handed me and my roommate extensive gluten-free menus. I came to the Center City Italian steakhouse (117 S. 17th St., 215-563-4810) to try the pumpkin gnocchi but didn’t call ahead and, unfortunately, it wasn’t in yet. The manager came over to apologize and took my card; when I arrived home an email awaited me, including details about the gnocchi and even the recipe. Impressive.

Our lunch started with a shared basket of bread (for my non-celiac roommate) and potato chips cooked in a dedicated fryer. I mentioned to the server that I couldn't eat the chips since some had touched the bread, so he removed the basket and started from scratch with fresh orders in separate baskets. The chips would have tasted better warm – some were crispy, most a bit soft and oily – but I was happy to have a non-bread option. We ordered figs with gorgonzola and micro greens in a port wine syrup as our appetizer, gnocchi with mushrooms and truffle oil (not on the menu but our server’s suggestion) for me, and the pasta with applewood smoked chicken, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes in walnut cream for him - all gluten free.

After 20 minutes, our tiny appetizer arrived –four or five figs. It was, however, quite tasty – the cheese balanced the sweet figs,, the greens were fresh, and it was just warm enough to enhance the flavor. After a pause before our entrees, the manager reemerged to explain the special steps the kitchen took to prepare them gluten free, including boiling our own water.

The hearty gnocchi (my roommate noticed slight graininess, though I did not) was complemented nicely by the oil and mushrooms, making it feel deceptively light and airy. His brown-rice pasta held its shape and soaked up the salty yet silky smooth sauce; he remarked that he wouldn’t have known it was gluten free. The smoked chicken, too, was incredibly flavorful. While both dishes were a bit heavy on the pepper, overall we loved them. Paired with an appetizer or dessert, the portions were spot-on.

We followed those dishes with a zesty panna cotta served with fruit, which was so aromatic we smelled it coming. As tropical flavor fans, we loved the pool of flavorful juice at the bottom of the plate. It was wonderfully tangy, and my roommate correctly detected a hint of passionfruit. The panna cotta itself was merely a sponge for this fruity goodness, but it served its purpose well.

Shortly after putting our spoons down we were surprised with warm, gluten-free chocolate cookies, which were the highlight of the meal. They were fluffy and so darkly chocolatey, I couldn’t eat them without sighing. Our server assured me the cookies were available “to-go,” and I’d definitely pick some up for a party or just to scarf down two at a time on the subway.

The bill was the only unpleasantry, totaling $57 before tax and tip. This might have been easier to swallow if the small portion of figs had not cost $13 – and we did not know this, as it was the special. We were full to bursting by the end of the meal, though, so if we returned, I’d skip appetizers. For me, the prices are somewhat inhibitive for lunch, but I’d certainly go for a special occasion, where I could dress up. It’s better suited for that anyway.

Davio's on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 12, 2012

News & Notes: October 12, 2012

C19 (267 S. 19th St., 215-545-0441) has brought Venice to Rittenhouse Square. Not only does the kitchen prepare gluten-free pasta, but also salads, risotto, steaks, fish entrees and even pan-fried polenta frites.

Lots of new options in suburbia this week. In Chester Springs, Liberty Union Bar & Grill (325 Simpson Dr., 484-359-4061) has a gluten-free menu as well as Redbridge beer and Woodchuck cider. The wings and fries are prepared separately.

Villanova's Azie on Main (789 E. Lancaster Ave., 610-527-5700) has a gluten-free menu that features pad thai, fried rice and sashimi.

In nearby Wayne, many selections at the vegan-friendly Raw Can Roll Cafe (767 W. Lancaster Ave., 484-580-8454) are gluten free.

Red Robin has a targeted opening time frame as the "beginning of 2013" for its Deptford Mall location. The chain has gluten-free burger buns and fries.

Baked goods from "Best of Philly" winner The Little Bakery are now sold in Center City at Brodo (31 S. 18th St., 215-977-7766) and Rittenhouse Market (1733 Spruce St., 215-985-5930).

Some of the 40 varieties of cheesecakes from Yhanne's House of Cheesecakes in Clayton, New Jersey (835 N. Delsea Dr., 856-881-0403) can be made without a crust. Yhanne offers several versions at the Berlin Farmers Market (41 Clementon Rd., 856-809-2470) Thursdays through Sundays. (Thanks Tom P.)

Look for Perdue's new gluten-free and dairy-free refrigerated breaded chicken tenders in supermarkets, as I wrote on Tuesday.

The Somers Point ShopRite (Rt. 9 & Bethel Rd., 609-927-8133) will be having a gluten-free festival on Saturday, October 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. They'll have samples, coupons, and information available as well as a chance to win $50 worth of gluten-free items.

Make note of a fundraiser at the newest Iron Hill Brewery location, in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia (8400 Germantown Ave., 215-948-5600). Present the special voucher at dinner on Monday, November 12 and the restaurant will donate 20% of your food bill to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Iron Hill has extensive gluten-free menus for adults and kids.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Love Me Tenders

There are plenty of gluten-free breaded chicken products around, from dinosaur-shaped bites to store-brand nuggets. Yet they all share a common trait: they're frozen. Now a poultry-industry titan has raised the ante with a product you'll find elsewhere in the supermarket.

As part of its healthier Simply Smart line, Perdue has introduced refrigerated gluten-free breaded chicken breast tenders. (There is a frozen version too.) The chicken is boneless white-meat breast with rib meat and seasoned with chicken broth, vinegar, natural flavors, yeast extract, brown sugar and sea salt, while the breading ingredients are rice flour, water, yellow corn flour, yellow corn meal, rice starch, vinegar, salt, raisin juice concentrate, honey, natural flavors, soybean oil and yeast extract. The products have at least 25% fewer calories, 50% less fat, 25% more protein and less salt than breaded fried boneless chicken. The gluten-free renditions, which will be available nationwide, are also GFCO-certified.

The refrigerated tenders are sold in 11.2 oz. packages (about nine pieces per package) and retail for around $5.99 each. Currently, Perdue is offering a dollar-off coupon.

Friday, October 5, 2012

News & Notes: October 5, 2012

More restaurants than ever now serve gluten-free pasta. But homemade noodles? That gets major props. Table 31, the Italian steakhouse at the sleek Comcast Center (1701 JFK Blvd., 215-567-7111), makes several kinds in house, gnocchi and fettuccine among them. (They're made in a different area of the kitchen from wheat pasta - on another floor, in fact - and prepared in a separate cooker.) All of the restaurant's Plates of the Day - from the baked lasagna to the lamb shank with polenta - are gluten free, as are the steak sauces and sides (including house-cut fries), and many appetizers, entrees and dessert selections. There's bread too, and the kitchen staff is well versed in gluten-free food preparation. Table 31 is open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner and evenings on Saturdays.

Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar has opened a second location, this one in University City at a former Marathon Grill outpost (40th & Walnut Sts., 215-662-1100). Many items on the menu are under 500 calories and are, or can be modified to be, gluten free. The kitchen also keeps gluten-free bread on hand.

Reader Heather H. updated me on several gluten-free-friendly places in Long Beach Island. Open year round, Surfside Coffee House in Surf City (1901 Long Beach Blvd., 609-494-3345) offers a variety of gluten-free bagels, breads, English muffins, smoothies, homemade crumbcake, brownies, fruit muffins and cookies. Boar's Head cold cuts are used for sandwiches, and separate utensils and grill and toaster are used to avoid cross-contamination. Safe menu options are noted.

The Joey's Pizza & Pasta location in Ship Bottom (2201 Long Beach Blvd., 609-361-5000) prepares gluten-free pizza in an aluminum pan and uses cheese and toppings "from the back."

Featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Mustache Bill's Diner in Barnegat Light, (8th Ave. & Broadway, 609-494-0155) serves gluten-free pancakes prepared on a separate griddle and gluten-free wraps. The diner is open Fridays through Sundays off-season.

The Bards Irish pub at Rittenhouse Square in Center City (2013 Walnut St., 215-569-9585) has formalized its gluten-free menu. With a dedicated fryer, the kitchen can now prepare specialties such as fish and chips, chicken tenders and onion rings daily, as well as non-fried items like pizza, burgers (with buns) and shepherd's pie.

Sweet Note Bakery's gluten- and dairy-free bagels are at 'feine in Conshohocken (812 Fayette St., 610-941-3346) and are (for at least a trial run) at Brodo in Center City (31 S. 18th St., 215-977-7766). In South Philly, OCF Coffee House (2001 Federal St., 267-273-1018) serves gluten-free mixed berry and apple tarts that are made separately off-site. The Drexel Hill location of Crossroads Coffee House (1270 Township Line Rd., 610-446-3585) has gluten-free carrot cake muffins, double dark chocolate chip cookies and espresso snickerdoodle cookies made by a gluten-sensitive baker.

Surf Sweets, makers of my favorite gummy candy, has all-natural Spooky Spiders available for Halloween. They're sold in 2.75-oz. packages at Whole Foods and other natural foods markets.

On Tuesday, I published part two of my Road Trip report on southern California, covering Anaheim and Disneyland.

Through Sunday, the Gluten-Free Saver deals site has a half-off offer for a one-year subscription to Gluten-Free Living magazine. (It's listed under "Bonus Deals.") Six bi-monthly issues are $17 (normally $34). Though I'm partial to the magazine because I have written for it, it is one of the best gluten-free publications around.

On October 18, Dr. Keith Laskin, the director of the Celiac Center at Paoli Hospital, will be honored at Chez Gourmet, a VIP "house party" in Philadelphia to benefit the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. There'll be a silent auction and a cooking demo from Starr Restaurants chef Michael Abt, among other festivities. Attendee and sponsorship information is available at the NFCA website.

Online community GFREEK.COM is accepting votes through December 23 for its annual "Best Of" awards and this year has extended it to various U.S. cities, including Philadelphia. I would be most appreciative if you supported Gluten Free Philly as best local support group. You can also vote for best grocery store, restaurant and other categories.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gluten-Free Road Trip: A Whole New World

Previous: California Dreamin'

This being a road trip, we couldn't miss an opportunity to catch a baseball game. After we checked into the Sheraton Park at the Anaheim Resort - a short walk to the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks - we had dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. [GF menu] nearby. Son No. 1 got the Accidental Fish & Shrimp, a plate of broiled mahi mahi and grilled shrimp seasoned Cajun-style, and a side of broccoli.

Before we left on the trip, I bought cheap tickets to the Angels-Indians game online. Despite the presence of Albert Pujols, Torii Hunter, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson on the roster of a team in the thick of the American League wild-card hunt, Angel Stadium was half empty (or half full, if that's how you roll).

The stadium itself is among the oldest in the Majors, although it's been renovated since its mid-1960s construction. Compared to the swanky retro-style ballparks in Philadelphia, Baltimore and other cities, Angel Stadium is dull. Gluten-free veggie dogs, black bean burgers, nachos, sweet potato fries, salads, fruit bowls and hummus are located at Melissa's Fresh For You stands in the first-base and third-base food courts and Redbridge beer is sold throughout the venue.

The game itself was a snooze, with the lowly Indians taking an early lead and ultimately winning the contest. We left early but stopped at an ice cream stand on the way out. I asked for vanilla soft serve in a cup, but the woman at the counter told me that I had to get it in a cone or upgrade to a large sundae in a decorative bowl. I told her that our son couldn't have the cone because he was on a gluten-free diet and that he didn't want a sundae, but she wouldn't compromise. And I wasn't willing to compromise by paying more for a plain sundae just to get it in a bowl. Enter my wife. She nearly jumped over the counter as she told the clerk: "Have some sympathy. My son has celiac disease and he cannot have the cone." With that, the clerk went to check with her manager. She returned with a cup of vanilla soft serve. Ah, the power of persuasion.

We spent our first full day in Anaheim at the legendary Disneyland. The park is much smaller than I expected, having been to the much larger Disney World in Orlando several times. The size made it easy for us to cover the park in a single day. As in Florida, Disney's California resorts are great for gluten-free dining. (The Disney Eats blog, written by a Disneyland employee, has a current list of gluten-free options; the list is also available at City Hall at Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A.) Lunch was in Frontierland, where we ate at River Belle Terrace. Our older son devoured a freshly carved turkey sandwich on a gluten-free roll with a side of cole slaw and baked beans. At dinner he ate a pastrami-topped burger and fries at Village Haus, a Pinocchio-themed restaurant in Fantasyland. At both places, I spoke with managers who oversaw the orders.

Disneyland's Mark Twain Riverboat
The best attractions at Disneyland included Indiana Jones Adventure, the Star Wars-themed Star Tours flight simulator, Space Mountain and Matterhorn Bobsleds. Our park experience was made much easier with the Fast Pass system (which allows guests to come back to more popular attractions at a designated time with little to no wait) and the Disney Parks mobile app that provides up-to-date wait times. The impressive fireworks show capped off an active day.

Disneyland's sister park, the 10-year-old California Adventure, was our base the much of the following day. The park just debuted a new section called Cars Land, home of the fantastic Radiator Springs Racers. Other rides we liked were Soarin' Over California, Toy Story Mania and Goofy's Sky School.

Restaurants at the Paradise Pier Boardwalk had many gluten-free options. At lunch, our older son had chicken skewers with Moroccan chili sauce at Paradise Garden Grill; directly next door, Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta serves gluten-free versions of their namesake foods.

By far, the most popular attraction at California Adventure is Radiator Springs Racers. I managed to snag four of the last few Fast Passes around 10 a.m.; the return time on the tickets was 10 p.m. After covering most of the rides we wanted to see, we walked back to the hotel for some poolside relaxation and I picked up pizzas from the zpizza location in neighboring Santa Ana. (The entire chain is GREAT Kitchens-trained through the NFCA.)

At night, we returned for seconds (and thirds) on several park rides and caught the majestic World of Color light-and-water show before finally experiencing Radiator Springs. The journey takes riders through familiar scenes from Cars before the vehicles rev up and race through the faux mountains.

Before we left the Anaheim area, we sought out two other culinary finds native to California: Pinkberry and In-N-Out Burger. Pinkberry was among the originators of the tart frozen yogurt craze in the U.S. All of the yogurts and fruits and some of the toppings are gluten free. In-N-Out, a West Coast chain, pioneered the fast-food drive-through restaurant concept. The chain's fries are gluten free, as are the protein-style burgers wrapped in lettuce. The yogurt is worth returning for; the burgers are just fair.

Next: Hollywood Nights (coming soon)